Having played and coached competitive tennis for many years, losing is probably the closest thing I can connect to the rejection we experience in the endeavor of evangelism. Losing stings and every competitive player has to learn to process this reality, for it is a real possibility every time a player steps on the court. In fact, every player experiences losing, even the champion. In our evangelistic efforts, when we step out in Jesus’ name, rejection is part of the process, regardless of your ability, accomplishments or experiences.
In fact, rejection is part of the Christian life just as Jesus said it would be. The first time Jesus spoke in public He said:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10–12).
And just before He was arrested He addressed the disciples with these words:
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18–20).
The Apostle Paul added: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Jesus experienced rejection. As His followers, we should also expect rejection. Because we need to understand rejection for Jesus’ sake is a rejection of His message – the gospel!
You see, the gospel makes a statement about the inherent condition of man: we are not good. And this flies in the face of the common perception that man is inherently good. Jesus Himself said that only God is good (Mark 10:18). We are sinful. David wrote, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). In Jeremiah 17:9 the prophet stated, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” We shouldn’t be surprised that a message of the good news of God’s love is couched in the bad news that something is terribly wrong with people.
Naturally, we don’t want to hear that we are born into and live in a state of depravity. The late British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge put it this way: “The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.”
How will people respond to this uncomfortable knowledge about our true spiritual condition? Well, this blast of reality is not so quickly embraced. Pride will attempt to reject and rationalize it away. In the natural, no one is going to hear that message and respond, “Cool. I see your point. I’m a filthy, rotten sinner who needs saving.” On the other hand, such an admission is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit showing us our sin and need for a Savior.
We shouldn’t harbor illusions about the nature of the message and people’s response to it. Many will cringe and reject it and you in the process; some will receive it and believe.
Paul elaborates: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
But rejection is not just an unwelcome aspect of the Christian life. It’s the pathway to fully identify with our Lord. As believers we long for and gravitate toward the positive benefits of following Jesus: forgiveness of sin, abundant and eternal life, love, joy and peace that transcends our circumstances, purpose, and more. Yet our identification with the Lord is not only about identifying with Him in His victory, it’s about identifying with Him in His sorrow. He was, as the Bible states, a “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
On a human level, we may want to avoid persecution and rejection. Yet on a spiritual level, this is a key component on the road to deepest communion with God. Paul noted, “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:5). Specifically, personal evangelism provides a platform for rejection to take place.
Like most people, I like to be liked. I like people and am not the kind of person that will say, “Alienation, misunderstanding, rejection by others—count me in.” No, in my flesh, in my humanness, I’m saying, “Count me out.” How about you?
But think about this for a moment: Imagine your Christian testimony is rejected by everyone you encounter except one person who didn’t shun you. They were attracted to you, to Christ in you and wanted to know more. And what if, in the midst of rejection by all others, this one person not only wanted to hear the gospel, but made a decision to trust in Christ for salvation, would it be worthwhile?
According to the Lord, most definitely! For Jesus said, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
Yes, rejection is part of the evangelistic process – but so is rejoicing. Praise Go